That $200,000 a year might sound like a lot to you, but the median home price in San Francisco is roughly $1.6 million or almost eight times our annual passive income. For a family of three in 2018, the Department of Housing and Urban Development declared that income of $105,700 or below was "low income." Therefore, I consider us firmly in the middle class.
We pitched to an angel investor group. They were very excited about the idea but wanted to know who amongst us (doctor, accountant, salesman) was doing the coding. When they heard we were outsourcing it, the wind went out of their sails immediately. They did want to meet with us again once we brought a coder on board but that person proved elusive to find. Coders in our area are looking for the steady paycheck, not willing to gamble on a startup.
The idea behind cashback is simple: you get rewarded for purchasing or using products you plan to buy anyway. Cashback sites pay you when you click through them, go to retailers, and spend. For example, check out eBates.com - There are over 2,000 stores to choose from including Walmart, Target, Sears, Calvin Klien, and others. You also get a $10 gift card after your first $25 purchase. Sign up is free. (If you encounter a cashback site where it’s not, avoid it.
I make a little bit of money off of referring people to services I truly believe in. I never recommend things I don’t personally use, but if I’m going to refer friends to Shopify, products on Amazon, or Udemy courses besides my own, I have no shame making a couple bucks off it. In most cases, these referral sales come from older links within my podcasts or courses, and therefore, are completely passive.
Most people who set up passive income don’t do it so they can lay on a beach all day, or even so they can spend their time learning a third or fourth language (ok, maybe I’m doing that), or living on private islands. No, the point of passive income is to liberate your time for more fruitful endeavors — whatever those may be. If you have the ambition and gall to get out of the “9 to 5 game” and set up passive income, chances are you won’t be happy with sitting on your butt or traveling year round. You’ll want to do something with meaning and purpose.

Though it requires a huge up-front investment (well, at least 20%), real estate is awesome, because it’s (usually) pretty stable, and it’s a triple-whammy: you make money by leveraging a bank’s money, you can rent it out with almost no work at all day-to-day, and the value of the underlying asset INCREASES. This is why so many people flock to AirBNB to rent out their apartments when they’re going on vacation, too. It’s pretty passive, you don’t have to own the asset, and you just hand over keys and hire a cleaner before/after. The value of your apartment is untouched. By contrast, imagine buying a plane and renting it out to people for tours — you pay tons of money to maintain it, and after 20 years, it’s value is almost nothing. The exception is if you can manage depreciation and somewhat automate the value-delivery. If you have an expensive tool (like a 3D printer) and charge people to come over to your house and print things on your 3D printer, it’s pretty passive for you to answer emails and open the door, so I give it a “Semi to yes” for passivity.
In February 2007, Pat Flynn was working at an architecture firm making $38,000 a year. He mulled boosting his earning power by getting an architecture license, but the process would likely take six to eight years. When he heard about getting a credential in sustainable design and environmentally friendly building called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), he decided to go for that, as no one in his department had it. The one problem? The exam was so challenging, just one-third of test-takers passed.

* I use Personal Capital to track all my finances in one place. It’s much easier to use their free software to follow 28 accounts on one platform than to log into various accounts to check my balances. They’ve also got great tools for x-raying your portfolio for excessive fees, recommending a more optimized asset allocation, and planning for retirement with their Retirement Planner.

Like we said above, there’s nothing passive about this, but if you can create another type of asset — a system for selling products — then it is. One example is to write a book, and use Amazon Fulfillment Services to automatically print and ship it every time you sell a copy, depositing the money in your account. Another example is Tim Ferriss, who hired overseas assistants to handle everything at BrainQuicken, from the marketing to the reordering. With drop-shipping (having the manufacturer ship directly to your customer), this has become easier, but you should know that it’s still a good bit of human labor to advertise, handle customer service, etc. But, it’s a good option, and you can experiment with automation and delegation as you go along. If you want to know more about this, read The Four Hour Work Week already!
For those of you who don’t want to come up with a $220,000 downpayment and a $900,000 mortgage to buy the median home in SF or NYC, who don’t want to deal with tenants or remodeling, and who wants to not do any work after the investment is made, check out Fundrise. They are my favorite real estate crowdsourcing company founded in 2012 and based in Washington DC. They are pioneers in the eREIT product offering and they’re raising an Opportunity Fund to take advantage of new tax favorable laws.
I’m not a software developer, and my early software projects (Blackberry Apps) failed because after paying a developer to build the product, I didn’t anticipate needing to update it regularly or provide support for it. For years after that, however, I had a partner who helped me upgrade our software once a year, and provided support if there are any issues (pretty rare). In 2013, we released our third module for Magento (they range from $49–149), and then ended up building a pretty successful SaaS product for Shopify. I left the business to my partner, and it still pays him over $3K a month in completely passive income. He updates the software every few months and answers the occasional customer email. Not bad!
Software is one of the most lucrative passive income streams but most online entrepreneurs shy away from it, mainly because of the technical aspect that is involved. The truth is that you don't need programming skills to build a software; the whole process can be outsourced fairly easily. You do need to know how to pick a good developer and, of course, have a winning idea that customers are willing to pay for.
P2P lending is the practice of loaning money to borrowers who typically don’t qualify for traditional loans. As the lender you have the ability to choose the borrowers and are able to spread your investment amount out to mitigate your risk. The most popular peer to peer lending platform is Lending Club. You can read our full lending club review here: Lending Club Review.

When you buy a turn-key rental property you are saving a lot of time and work, by letting the turn-key company complete the repairs, find the property and manage the property. You are giving up equity in the property over buying one yourself, because you aren’t doing any of the work. You have to decide if the time you save is worth the equity you give up. Typical returns I have seen on turn-key properties have been in the 10 percent range.


Have you always wanted to own your own business? You could start a side business while you work a full-time or part-time job. For example, if you're a graphic or web designer, you could start your own graphic or web design business on the side. If you like to make jewelry, you could sell at craft fairs and online. Starting a business may be daunting, but if you believe in you and your work, you could earn a decent living, maybe even quit your day job. Search out those who are doing what you want to do and interview them. Find out the mistakes they made and ask for guidance.

Well, my first book project didn’t generate the interest I would have liked to, but another set of products suredid. In 2013, I launched a course on Udemy, which grew so fast, it became my biggest income earner of all time. That course resulted in a series of books (audio, digital, and print), a not-so-passive podcast, and even lead to my now full-time gig: SuperLearner Academy. Though I run the company full time, it is, for all intents and purposes, an automated business.

P2P lending is the practice of loaning money to borrowers who typically don’t qualify for traditional loans. As the lender you have the ability to choose the borrowers and are able to spread your investment amount out to mitigate your risk. The most popular peer to peer lending platform is Lending Club. You can read our full lending club review here: Lending Club Review.


The most liquid of the private investments are investing in equity or credit hedge funds, real estate funds, and private company funds. There will usually be 6 month – 3 year lockup periods. The least liquid of the private investments are when you invest directly into private companies yourself. You might not be able to get your money out for 5-10 years, depending on the success of the company and upcoming liquidity events.
Network marketing or multi-level marketing is one of the most popular passive income streams. When you join a network marketing company, you become part of a team. The goal, for some, is to become a leader, such as a district manager of your area, because you can earn more money. The drawback to network marketing is poor leadership and the emphasis on building teams quickly. If you join a team with a weak leader, you won't like network marketing. But if your leader knows how to build and develop people and teams, you could be successful, earning $5,000 or more per month. A word of caution: read the fine print when you sign up. Make sure you have ample time to quit if you decide the opportunity is not for you.
Be aware that before your passive income stream can start making money, you have to spend many hours creating it, including building the website itself. You must also monitor your sales to see if you must make changes, take steps to ensure that your website appears near the top of the results page of search engines, and periodically add new content to keep visitors coming back.
When a taxpayer records a loss on a passive activity, only passive activity profits can have their deductions offset instead of the income as a whole. It would be considered prudent for a person to ensure all the passive activities were classified that way so they can make the most of the tax deduction. These deductions are allocated for the next tax year and are applied in a reasonable manner that takes into account the next year's earnings or losses.
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